NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 crew members arrive at Kennedy Space Center, October 1, 2022. /NASA
NASA will send the first-ever Native American woman astronaut to orbit aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule atop the Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday.
NASA astronaut Nicole Mann will serve as the commander with her fellow Josh Cassada as the pilot.
She’ll fly alongside Koichi Wakata of Japan’s space agency called JAXA, or Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and a Roscomos cosmonaut Anna Kikina who joined the mission as part of a U.S.-Russian ride-sharing agreement.
“I am very proud to represent Native Americans and my heritage,” Mann told reporters during a news conference on Saturday. “I think it’s important to celebrate our diversity and also realize how important it is when we collaborate and unite, the incredible accomplishments that we can have.”
Having grown up in Northern California, Mann is registered with the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes.
The mission marks the fifth spaceflight for Wakata while being the first for Cassada and Kikina apart from Mann.
The crew will meet and hand over with astronauts from NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission in orbit, after which the previous crew will depart the space station for a splashdown off the coast of Florida.
The launch is aimed at 12 p.m. EDT on October 5 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.